ELLEN O'REILLY MEETS PAPA ROACH BASSIST TOBIN ESPERANCE
t se e m s like a w orld away, here in the freezing cold w inter, as
I recall m y tim e sp e n t in the blistering heat at Reading
Festival 2014. Th e w eeken d w as filled w ith a ho st of
excellen t live ro ck bands, including Royal Blood, the 1975,
Band O f S k u lls and Q u e e n s O f Th e Sto n e A g e , not to
m ention the A rctic M onkeys. It w as a w eeken d of heat,
exciting live m u sic and great b a ss players.
Speaking of w hich, I had the chance to sit dow n in the shade and have a chat with
Papa Roach's b a ssist and main songw riter Tobin Esperance, w ho tells us: "I think I got
m y first b a ss w hen I w as eight years old. M y dad w as a b a ss player, he would alw ays
have one, and I would get it out and act like I w as playing. It w asn't until I w as about
11 years old w hen he started to sh o w m e bass-lines like Led Zeppelin's 'Good Tim es,
Bad Tim es' and Beatles stuff, and from there I just w ent off"
I a sk about the early influences that led to Tobin's playing style in Papa Roach.
H e explains: "I rem em ber trying to learn M arvin Gaye, and that's how I discovered
Ja m e s Ja m erso n . I go t really into funk w ith Ja m e s Brow n, and then funk-rock bands
like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ja n e 's Addiction. That's how I learned to play
b ass, ju st by playing along to reco rd s"
Throughout his career, Tobin has received no formal b ass tuition - until four years
ago. "I m et w ith this guy w ho w as just there shaking his head and he said, 'Ju st sh o w
m e w hat you're doing, w hat you're capable of' and he basically just ripped on my
technique" he chuckles. "B u t I w as just too far gone. I've been doing things m y w ay
for so m any years, that to try and start over from scratch and be disciplined enough to
do things the 'right w ay' w as just not on m y list"
It's at this point w hen I w onder aloud w hy a su cce ssfu l b a ssist w ho w as already
in a huge band would w ant to get lessons.
.. "I w anted to read m usic really bad, and
I ended up looking at the notes and trying to just do it, but it w as just not gonna
happen! I w as so accustom ed to just hearing it and playing along that I didn't need it. I
totally respect people w ho can read m usic, but I have an ear"
A s I had ju st w atched Papa Roach perform , I asked Tobin about his sound, in
particular his aw eso m e octave fuzz effects. "That's a
M alekko Industries B assm aste r" he says. "I struggle
with it w hen I'm playing in different countries w here
the pow er is a little different, b ecau se it ge ts noisy
and unpredictable, but for the m o st part it's the
hugest, gnarliest so u n d "
Tobin gives m e a rundown of his live setup. "I've
used A m p eg sin ce day one, the 8x10 and the SV T
sound, but for travelling in Europe I try to condense
dow n to a really light rig, so I just have a Sansam p
pedal and a power am p. I really think the tone co m es
from the b ass and I play Laklands, which to m e are
one of the best, w ell-m ade b a sse s out there. The
overall tone you get from them is 'the sound' and that,
com bined with your fingers and how you attack the
strings, is all you need"
I a sk Tobin to tell m e about a fe w of his favourite
players and sty le s, and he replies: "O f co u rse
Ja m erso n : w hen I hear anything fu n k or M otow n, I
ju st lo se it. I love re g g a e too. I like a lot of different
pick players like Jo e Lally from Fugazi and Eric
A very from Ja n e 's A d dictio n w ho are m ore m elodic
players, although that's a co m p letely different style
from w hat I norm ally do. I try and stretch out and
play so m eth in g different from w hat the guitar is
doing. I've alw ays been influenced by hip-hop m u sic,
e sp e cia lly the gro o ve and sim p licity in the ba ss-lin e s,
but m o st recently I've been influenced by synth-pop
and old 1980s m u sic. I like to ste p on the overdrive
and add a little o ctave that m akes m y b a ss sound
like a synth at tim es to o "
Papa Roach's new album
is out in January.
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BASS GUITAR MAGAZINE